Sunday, June 29, 2014

Zhao's Soup House 趙記湯館


Zhao's Soup House is a new Chinese restaurant which is located underneath Jade Seafood along Alexandra Road, in Richmond. Having passed by the restaurant numerous times, I never really thought much of them. However, when CrispyLechon posted some photos on Instagram, I knew I had to make a visit because 1. the restaurant offers slow cooked soups and 2. the interior looks amazing.

The interior looks like a house or a room in China, and there are protective and longevity patterns which are often found at palaces. Furthermore, the ceiling has a mandala flower pattern and there is a poster print of Chinese art along the wall, of a palace during the Song Dynasty. As for the seating arrangements, the replicas of old wooden carved tables with a glass top, are spaced evenly apart and not cramped. If anything, I wonder how the restaurant plans to keep the floor clean. The flooring looks nice and is laminated wood with deep grooves in the pattern, where dirt can get trapped.

What I really like is that although the restaurant charges for tea, the pots are sitting on a candle to keep the temperature warm. The restaurant offers tea from $6.00 - $16.00 and the basic ones such as chrysanthemum, jin jun mei, zheng shan xiao zhong, da hong pao and jasmine are the lowest price. Since neither of us drink tea during dinner (or even dim sum lol), we felt guilty when asking for only hot water. However, the owner did not mind and brought over a teapot. In addition, he poured the water for us in clay tea cups with a phoenix and the other, a mountain land scape pattern with horses.

When the owner presented us with the menus, he came back later on with some salted peanuts and a hot towel. As for the table setting, there is a red napkin along with custom made plates, bowls, spoons and chopsticks. Furthermore, there is a chopstick stand along with a plate for the hot towel. From what I remember, Kirin is the only restaurant in Richmond that provides hot towels (which are sometimes even given cold!), so bonus points for Zhao. In addition, the hand towels are a good quality and pretty thick.

As the drinks arrived, I thought wow, the restaurant is definitely trying hard to please. Both drinks are served with a good slice of watermelon and not only that, but the slices are good and not crappy end pieces (although of course the end pieces could be thrown in the watermelon juice LOL). Unfortunately, the mango was not ripe and the juice tastes extremely sour. However, despite tasting very sour, I prefer juice without added sugar or syrup. As for the watermelon, perfectly ripe as well as sweet.

Rating: 2.5/5.
The soup is served in a clay pot and has a light chicken broth taste. Furthermore, there is only a slight herbal flavour and although some may prefer that, we personally prefer a stronger herbal taste.

Rating: 3.5/5.
The restaurant was offering a $25.00 promotion for 2 1/2 crabs and since it is a great deal, we went for one. Being hesitant on choosing cream and butter sauce because a bland tasting sauce is the worst, we did not worry because when the owner asked for our choice of sauce, it was the first one he suggested! The cream and butter sauce tastes properly made; one flavour does not overwhelm the other, and the sauce has a good consistency where it was not too thick and dried up fast, or watery. If anything, it was a shame that all the dishes arrived at once and because we chose to start on the peking duck, the crab was a bit cold when we started eating it.

The crepes are not too thick or thin, and have a nice elasticity while also easy to chew. Furthermore, since the first course tasted so good, we actually finished every slice of skin and were only short a couple of crepes. As for the sides, cucumber and green onion is available and two portions of hoisin. 

Rating: 4/5.
The peking duck has the crispest skin that I have ever blogged about, including at a higher end restaurant. The duck is well skinned and the way I like it; with little fat and no meat (although I prefer just the skin). Furthermore, every single slice is perfectly crisp and there is not even one slightly soggy piece of skin.

Rating: 2/5.
The cauliflower has a very hard crunch and is barely cooked, which I do not mind. However for most, the cauliflower is considered undercooked and because of that, the spiciness does not absorb into the vegetable. Asides from the cauliflower, I like that a bit of ground pork is added which provides some extra flavour. As for the price, the portion is a bit smaller compared to many restaurants that offer a similar dish.

Rating: 3/5.

When ordering, we pointed at a photo of dumplings on the menu and the owner mentioned they were the pork dumplings. However, when the dumplings arrived in a soup which was not pictured and having had something similar before at 湯.com, we wanted only the dumplings like shown on the menu. Fortunately though, the soup has a flavourful chicken broth and is not bad (way better than 湯.com's). 

The dumplings taste moist and have a good meat to vegetable ratio. In addition, the tasty and rich broth with a slight sweetness from the dumplings, prevent the dumplings from drying out and sticking together. The pork dumplings along with the soup are pretty good.

Rating: 2/5.
What we would have preferred to arrive as one of the first dishes and is showing up near the end of dinner, is the mouth watering chicken. Due to the lack of sauce and small bowl, it was hard to mix the chicken with the sauce or scoop some sauce onto the chicken. At first, the sauce seemed to have a barley there hint of tanginess which I like in a mouth watering chicken. But since there was a really small amount of sauce, I could not tell. Furthermore, there is no hint of spiciness and the chicken tastes bland.

I do prefer a simple steamed chicken however, than one with only chilli oil and tastes bland like Bushuair's. In addition for the price, the rib cage and wing cut does not have much meat and is considered slightly pricey. It is such a shame because the chicken may have only needed something so small like more sauce, since there was a good amount of crushed peanuts despite tasting dry.

The jelly fish is properly rinsed and has a very faint hint of sesame oil. If there was a stronger flavour of sesame oil along with a hint of chilli sauce, the jelly fish would be pretty good. Usually we rarely use the vinegar that is provided on the side too, but could have used some this time. However, we did not ask for vinegar since the appetizer was the second last dish to show up and we were not that hungry anymore.

Rather than the typical minced duck meat with lettuce wrap, the restaurant offers sautéed duck meat along with vegetables. There are caramelized onions, green and red pepper along with water chestnut, and moist duck meat. The vegetables provide a nice crunch and the flavour from the onions are definitely there. Furthermore, the duck meat tastes tender and the dish has a good hoisin base. If anything, although some restaurants in China serve a variation of the second course like this, lettuce is also provided which was not the case for us (we do not mind).

The jello tastes slightly sweet and there are plenty of goji berries which I love. When we mentioned to the owner that he forgot to charge us $25.00 for the crab, he offered to give us a second order of jello!

TOTAL: $125.05 + TIP $19.95 = $145.00.

As we were leaving, I snapped a photo of these pots which resemble where people traditionally used to store rice before. As for Zhao, the restaurant keeps their soups heated here. When the owner noticed me taking a peak at the pots, he was very happy as well as excited to show me the soups inside them; you gotta appreciate someone who cares.

Since the restaurant has two entrances, we left through the other entrance just to check out the whole restaurant. The restaurant has a couple of private rooms and overall, we really like the interior. As for the food, some dishes can improve and the highlight was definitely the peking duck. If it were not for the peking duck, friendly owner and nice interior, we would probably not revisit because some of the dishes are average at best and can improve. As for the service, it was hard to get the waitresses' attention (for plate changes and the bill) because the staff is fairly new and still figuring things out. If anything, the biggest complaint is that the food did not come out in the preferred order and the table was too small for the amount of items we ordered.

- Nice atmosphere
- One of the better Peking Duck skins
- Genuinely sincere owner and friendly staff

- Some items are pricier
- Although the service was friendly, it was hard get (the staff is still new)
- Not enough table space so our dinner was quite uncomfortable
- All the food arrived at once and not necessarily in the preferred order (appetizers showed up last)

- Revisit post on Zhao's Soup House [here]
- Restaurant is currently offering 15% off excluding live seafood

Food: 2.5/5
Service: 3/5

Zhao's Soup House on Urbanspoon

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